Thursday, July 30, 2009

the hills are alive - an interview with karin bubaš

Karin Bubaš is a visual artist from Vancouver. Besides her striking and original photography, her watercolors of characters from "Dynasty" caught my eye.

Her latest solo exhibition "With Friends Like These..." features soft pastels of characters from "The Hills."

I was interested in the life & work of Bubaš, particularly her use of subjects.

JB: Just browsing your work on your site, you capture high drama in your subjects with a soft, understated tone. There is a lot of visual conflict. What is your relationship like with "The Hills" and why were you drawn to this visually?

KB: There is a kind of raw emotional beauty in shows like "The Hills" and "Dynasty" that makes for interesting study. I work from snapshots or stills when I paint so the more emotional I can get in my material, the more interesting to work from. With snapshots of friends I find I get the same awkward camera unease and half-smiles and I don’t really want to draw or paint those kinds of pictures. Tears, arguments, and sad pensive moments make for challenging subject matter.

I was in Paris last fall and saw a fantastic pastel show at Musée d'Orsay called "Le mystère et l'éclat." I’d been thinking about doing some sort of ambitious painting or drawing project for some time and when I saw the exhibition I realized that I had to give soft pastel some serious consideration. The raw pigment seemed to glow off the paper in a magical way and I think it has been an undervalued medium. Also, there is something about a painted or drawn portrait that has an emotional resonance that a photographic portrait does not. I knew I wanted to work on portraits and it was a matter of who and what. When I was back in Vancouver, I was watching television, specifically "The Hills," and realized that the emotional display of the cast members would make excellent subject matter. Also, I was intrigued by the idea of the collective social experience in relation to drawing from stills of "The Hills."

JB: Have you ever been criticized for using what some may call "low-art" subject matter?

KB: Not that I'm aware of.

JB: You also work in photography. What are the differences/similarities in the two mediums? Which do you believe was your first love?

KB: For me the main difference between mediums is the immediacy. With photography one would think the process would be instantaneous (especially with digital technology), but in actuality it takes me many weeks (even months) to produce a final photographic piece. Apart from planning the shoot location and doing the initial photo shoot there is often much time spent tweaking files with my photo lab, colour correcting, photoshop, editing, that it becomes a very long, tedious and expensive process. Part of the reason I began drawing again was that I was experiencing photo lab fatigue. It has been a relative stress-free process of making my pastel drawings. I can sit at my kitchen table and listen to the radio or television and work away. I don't have manufacturing constraints.

Overall, my work has centered around the idea of a portrait. With "Leon’s Palace" it is about creating a psychological portrait through ones environment. "Red, Blue and Yellow", is a series of portraits of reading. The installation romanticizes the everyday activity, using the composition and tranquil setting to create a light-hearted narrative. "With Friends Like These…" is the first comprehensive study of faces for a solo exhibition and the first exhibition devoted to drawing. Despite the wide-ranging subject matter, whether it is photography, painting or drawing my work has a softness and quality of light that remains consistent.

JB: Who are some of your artistic influences in any medium and why?

KB: Photographers I like are William Eggleston and Stephen Shore (I love their use of color). Loretta Lux has a brilliant take on portraiture. Some painters that I admire are Karen Kilimnik, Renoir, Rembrandt, and Paul Cesar Helleu. Directors also inspire me. Hitchcock's strong visual style and Sofia Coppola's consistent dreamy quality inspire me to want to make a film one day.

JB: Is there a specific kind of art you are drawn to more immediately than others?

KB: I guess I'm more attracted to work that has strong roots in tradition.

JB: Are there any trends in the art world that you've noticed?

KB: I generally avoid trends. A few years ago it seemed like everyone was making art about or using popular music. Artists were trying to be rock stars. Maybe now people are getting tired of working on the computer?

JB: Is there anything you aren't fond of?

KB: In general, I strongly dislike mayonnaise. I'm not sure if you are asking about art I about or using mayonnaise would top it.

JB: What are some of your struggles in being an artist?

KB: Being comfortable with being uncomfortable and having no sense of financial security.

JB: From one to four stars, how many stars do you give your day so far?

KB: **** four stars definitely

The solo exhibition for Karin Bubaš opened July 28th and will run until September 13th at the Charles H. Scott Gallery at Emily Carr University (1399 Johnson Street), Vancouver, BC.

See also: The Frisky
& the sublime Jezebel


  1. Those portraits are fantastic.

  2. love the how many stars question! good answer karin!!

  3. Sounds good. I like your painting skill. Its damn good.

  4. What an extremely talented artist!!! I enjoyed getting to know a little bit about her and her process!